President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that ties federal research funding to colleges and universities’ compliance with free speech laws.
Trump first mentioned the order at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, threatening to withhold federal dollars from schools that don’t support “free speech.” The president invited pro-life student activists who have complained about colleges suppressing their efforts to the White House to be present when he signed the order. Pro-life activist Kristan Hawkins told Politico that “probably no other campus group has had more free speech issues than the pro-life movement.”
Details about how or under what circumstances institutions would be punished were unclear. Numerous conservative leaders have criticized Trump’s attempts to intervene in this area, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Defunding universities is not the solution to free speech issues on college campuses, they maintain.
The order also requires colleges and universities to provide “future earnings and loan repayment rates for every major for every program at every single school,” Trump said during a news conference before the signing. The president also said his administration expects to propose a plan in the coming months that would require institutions “to have skin in the game by sharing portion of risk in student loan debt.”
“Costs have gone up and there is no incentive for them to watch costs,” the president said, adding that university leaders earn too much money. “They don’t care because the government loans the money.” Trump did not offer details on how the proposal forcing institutions to share a financial risk would work.